This third situation has a happy ending! My aunt was involved in her family’s decision to move her from a house she could no longer care for into a facility that she was familiar with. I thought she had had the perfect setup. There was a lady who cooked for her and cleaned the house and took her places if her son couldn’t do it. But no one was there during the nights, and several bouts with illness made her family concerned for her wellbeing. Senior care outside the home can be very expensive or it can be reasonable, but the fact is that my aunt’s resources were mostly tied up in her house. But her house had to be sold in order to fund her stay in the new facility. And for a while, she missed her house and her lifestyle…and all the memories therein.
My aunt moved around a good bit all her married life. She would breeze back into our town, having lived in faraway places, with big smiles and big hugs and the ability to make you feel as if you were the most important person in her world. Whatever house she found – after each move – was transformed into a lovely home, thanks to her interior decorating skills. Her culinary skills were legendary, and I treasure the recipes she shared with me. The most outstanding thing I remember about her was that she was FUN! She could talk with you on any subject as seriously as needed, but there was always a twist to her thinking that led to giggles and then outright laughter! I’m sure she could be sharp-tongued, but never to me or in my presence.
She never asked someone to do something outright; but after discussing whatever she wanted your help with, you found yourself offering your services – even insisting that she let you help her. And she would reluctantly accept – “that is, if you really want to.” And then she praised your help over and over to you and to your parents or whoever was nearby. She knew how to get things done. Occasionally she ran into a brick wall with her husband. They didn’t see eye to eye on some things, and usually it didn’t matter, but when it did – watch out! Once, my aunt wanted her bedroom and living room done over and had actually begun acquiring bed linens and other small items. But her husband said he liked things just like they were, so leave them alone. And then he went on a 3 day, 2 night hunting trip. He left his house on Friday and came back late Sunday to her house, although he didn’t realize it until Monday. She had alerted remodelers and painters, and had purchased new furniture and equipment and curtains. And due to excellent prior planning, it was all accomplished within 48 hours! (It was sort of like that TV program where the man takes his wife to dinner and a movie and when they come back, their house has been transformed.) Needless to say, it was mighty quiet at their house for a while…!
I liked her attitude about things, even though it differed from mine. I would complain about having to wash dishes; she would tell me how she loved to make her china and crystal and silverware SPARKLE! I complained about having to make up beds and straighten up rooms; she said having a place for everything and everything in its place made her feel energized and calm at the same time! She never had nothing to do.
So – when I heard that she was going into an assisted living facility, I didn’t know what that would do to such a vibrant person. And here’s what I learned from watching her situation play out. Every person is unique. Even one parent who has been part of a couple for 60+ years is not that same person when facing an entirely new situation as a single person. Suddenly her needs/wants/wishes are addressed. And for those who are used to putting the needs of others ahead of themselves, this can be disconcerting…What DO I like? Want? Need?
My aunt did not need nursing care. She was able to keep her same doctor and her same medicines. She had known about this particular facility for many years and felt that it truly was a “good” place to be. (In fact, she used to belong to a jug band and they had entertained the residents at this same facility several years back!) Friends and family are close enough to visit, but as she told me this past Sunday when I called her, they don’t visit as often as she would like. (She would LIKE to see them every day!) “I need my hugs!” she said. I love the way she answers the phone. After the initial “Hello,” and she knows it is us calling, she says in her musical southern voice,”Well, hey, darlin’!”
I asked about the food there and she told me the meals are pretty good and that, on balance, “this is a nice place”. She watches some TV but since she has eye problems, she “reads” books on tape instead of having actual books to “read”. Even though she forgets a few things and may tell you the same story or ask the same question several times, she still has a very sharp mind and still can ask the most pertinent questions!
I asked her what she does during the day, what her routine was. “Same old, same old,” she said. She goes to meals in a dining area with the other residents. There’s help if she needs it with putting on clothes, or anything else. She has a spacious apartment with her bed and her living room furniture nicely separated. Displayed are oil paintings she has done, china she has painted and pictures of her family members.
Since she seemed so healthy, I asked her how she was feeling. “I’m feeling real, real good, as far as that goes,” she said. “My bedroom is at the end of the building – a long ways away – so that’s how I get my exercise, and I need it!” She has always been an active person and walking is still the best exercise, even with her walker.
“But enough about me! What’s going on with you all?” She still has a healthy curiosity, and she really wants to know about each of us. So we filled her in.
She really seems happy, but I ask the defining question: “Do you miss living at home?” “Of course I miss my home,” she said. “But I don’t miss housekeeping!”
She recently had a birthday, and now – at 97 – she has lived the longest of any of our family members. We should all be so blessed! Live Long and Be Happy, my dear aunt!